We have come to Jesus’ last meal with His disciples. He has asked His Father to let Him eat this special meal with His disciples, one last time.
Luke tells us that Jesus wanted one last Passover with His disciples before going to the cross. “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:14). God took this request seriously and set it up LONG before this night.
I don’t know if we discussed this already but I feel drawn to it again. The Jewish calendar relies on the moon. The new month always begins on the first day of the new moon is visible. There weren’t calendars printed that you picked up at the store that had lunar phases. The new month had to be verified and decreed by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Communication was not always perfect either when you got further away from Jerusalem. So not all calendars were synchronized.
The short history is that the Jewish holidays follow the lunar calendar. Every Jewish month begins with the earliest visibility of the moon at the start of its 29.5-day cycle. In the times of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the new month was to be declared by the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court in Israel, based on if and when witnesses testified to having seen the crescent moon. If the new crescent moon was seen (by two witnesses) on the 30th night of a month’s cycle, then upon accepting their testimony the Sanhedrin would declare that day (the 30th) as the 1st of the new month. If there were no sightings of the new moon on the 30th night of a month’s cycle, the 30th day would be treated as the last day of the month, and the 1st of the new month would begin the following night (day 31 of the last cycle).
Jews living far from the land of Israel would not be aware which day had been declared the 1st of the new month in time to know which day would the 14th—when the holidays of Passover and Sukkot begin. In order not to miss the correct day, the distant exiles observed the holiday on the two days that could possibly be the 14th of the month.”
God allowed this “exception” in the calendar issue and I believe it was with Jesus’ dinner plans in mind. Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal together on the first night while the “sanctioned” celebration was the next night. This also allowed Jesus’ death to be in timing with the Passover Lamb’s sacrifice.
So why did Jesus want one last Passover with His disciples? He could have easily taught all the lesson He did that night during other dinners. He could have washed His disciples’ feet at any time. He confronted their arguments on who was the greatest on multiple occasions. He could also have chosen another night to institute what we celebrate as communion. So why wait? What was the difference?
First of all, Jesus KNEW it was their last meal together and He wanted it to be special. “Father, can You allow Me one special meal with the guys? One that they will never forget.” This meal and together time would hit on ALL the important aspects of being His follower in demonstrable ways. He wouldn’t just tell them to be servants; He would become their servant instead. He wouldn’t simply tell them again that He was going to die; He would hand them “pieces of Himself” instead. He would instill in them living memories that, once viewed, would spring up in their hearts and testify of Him for the rest of their lives.
Secondly, Passover held the significance of His sacrifice. He was their Redeemer. His was the blood that would protect them from eternal death. He was ALL that Passover embodied. The four cups of wine used during this celebration are representative of: 1) “I will take you out…; 2) “I will save you…; 3) “I will redeem you…; and 4) “I will take you as a nation…
Jesus did ALL of these. He took us out of the world. He removed us from the pit of sin. He saved us by giving His life a ransom for us. He paid the price to redeem us from Satan. And He makes us one for His Kingdom; His nation.
There is a fifth cup that is set out during the meal for Elijah. This cup is for the Messiah. I’m wondering if this is the cup Jesus used to represent His blood. Is this the cup Jesus instructed His disciples to drink from in remembrance of Him? Maybe that is the cup Jesus refers to drinking when God’s Kingdom comes.
I was looking through the accounts of that night from our gospel story tellers and noticed that in Luke we are told that Judas also partook of that special cup. It amazes me how deeply disguised Judas was in their ranks. Jesus knew but He didn’t point His finger at him and scream, “BETRAYER!” He treated Judas to exactly the same lessons and reminders that He gave to the rest of His disciples. He washed Judas’ feet. He dipped bread with him. He served him His body and blood. He did EVERYTHING for Judas, including dying for him. But Judas threw it all back at Him.
This didn’t make Jesus love Judas any less. He still set a place for him at the table, KNOWING what was to come. He sets that same place at the table for EACH of us. Even when we come in pretending to be one of His, He welcomes us. He teaches all who come. He gives of Himself freely. He wants all who are weary to come and receive from Him. I’m glad Jesus had one more night to say “Come and dine with Me.”
BUT God’s table is a little different. He welcomes all who come IN HIS SON’S NAME. He opens His arms to all who ARE DRESSED FOR THE WEDDING. The “dress code” includes being washed and covered by Jesus’ blood. Without accepting His sacrifice that night YOU exclude yourself from God’s table.
Father God, please don’t let me sound like I have it all figured out. I pray I’m following where You lead in our time together. I honestly believe that I won’t know the full story until Jesus shares it with me personally. I’m looking forward to that day! I wonder if it will be over dinner. Will He break the bread and pass it to each of us at the wedding feast?
I bet the disciples there that night with Jesus never looked at a piece of bread and cup of wine the same again. It is exciting that that very act is what clued the two disciples in Emmaus in to Who they were sharing their meal with. That Passover meal changed lives forever. Even more than the first one did. Both impacted lives far in the future but the last one with Jesus set the stage for the best dinner yet; the one I will eat with You! Thank You for setting a place for me!
Thank You Jesus for taking the time for “one last meal.” Thank You Father for setting it up so Jesus could eat His meal and be the sacrifice too. Talk about advance planning!